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Fall Back | Straight Ahead

I JUST HAVEN'T MET YOU YET (1/2) -- PG-13

[title] I Just Haven’t Met You Yet (1/2)
[author] kissontheneck [aka fieryrogue]
[pairing] Cookleta
[beta] rajkumari905
[rating] PG-13
[word count] ~12,000
[summary] The Davids have been BFFs their entire lives, sharing ups and downs, apartments, and grocery bills. Now if only they could find the perfect partners their lives would be complete.
[disclaimer] Surely, I have nothing to do with either of these fine young men, no matter how much I wish I did.
[warnings] Language, terrible boyfriends
[author's notes] Stupid Michael Bublé and his stupid song. ;)





~*~
Wherever you are
Whenever it’s right
You’ll come out of nowhere
And into my life.

~*~


It’s funny now that David doesn’t remember much before that day: that day in late August just before school started, when he’d been in the front yard with Daniel trying to teach him how to catch. David wasn’t very good at sports, but teaching a four year old how to toss a baseball shouldn’t have been too difficult.

It hadn’t been until David saw the moving van pull into the driveway across the street and he saw a little boy tumble out of the passenger’s side door that he literally dropped the ball which rolled down the yard and into the street.

He’d almost forgotten to grab Daniel before he toddled out into the road after it.

But the other boy stopped in his tracks, letting go of his own little brother’s shirt collar as he eyed the ball that had managed to cross the street and stop right at the corner of the driveway, practically at his feet. Time sort of froze then -- at least, that’s how David remembers it anyway -- until the new boy bent to pick up the ball, looked up and down the street and then crossed to the Archuletas' yard, arm extended.

“Here’s your ball,” he said, handing it over. “We’re moving in.”

Even at six, David knew what “stating the obvious” meant, but he also knew he should be kind to people, so he didn’t comment. Instead, he said, “Hi. My name’s David. This is Daniel.”

Daniel had actually wandered back towards the house where his mother had come out to see what was going on across the street. But David didn’t notice this because he was too busy being distracted by the new kid’s cheesy grin.

“Hey, that’s my name too,” said the new David. “David Cook.”

“David Archuleta,” David repeated, not sure what else he should say. “What grade are you in?”

“First,” New David replied.

“At Sunset Elementary?”

“Yep.”

“What teacher?”

“Mr. Jackson.”

David had always been bad about saying things that referred to information only he had, such as then when he blurted out, “We’re gonna have two Davids.”

“What?” New David asked.

“I mean, that’s what class I’m in,” David explained. “We’ll have two Davids in class. David C. and David A.”

“Oooh,” David C. said in understanding. “I get it. Don’t worry, you’ll always come first.”

Again, David remembers time standing still, but it was probably just his stupid brain not keeping up. Memory can do stuff like that to a person.

“David, what are you doing over here?” Mrs. Cook had come across the way now. “I’m sorry, is he bothering you?”

“Not at all,” Mrs. Archuleta reassured her. “Have you all eaten dinner yet?”

Mrs. Cook, who had placed both her hands on New David’s shoulders, appeared taken aback.

“Well, no, but--”

“Please join us,” Mrs. Archuleta offered, smiling brightly. “We’re just about ready to sit down. We’d love to have you and get to know our new neighbors.”

“Oh no,” Mrs. Cook said quickly, “there’s five of us. That’s a huge intrusion.”

Mrs. Archuleta laughed almost comically. “And there’s six of us, including a baby. Please, it’s no trouble.”

And that’s how five minutes after meeting him, David had his first dinner date with David Cook From Across The Street.

~*~


It only took David C. a week to give David A. a nickname.

“I’m gonna start calling you Archie, okay? For Archuleta.”

Apparently David had no say in the matter, but he supposed that’s how nicknames worked anyway.

“Um, okay,” David replied. They were at lunch, sitting under a tree on the playground while everyone else ran around in circles in some made-up game of the day. He took a bite of apple.

“Should I call you something?” he asked.

“Cook,” David C. answered as if he’d been prepared for this question. “Unless you think of something better, but my name’s pretty boring. Anyway, we won’t get confused.”

“Mr. Jackson still calls us both David though,” David pointed out.

“He’ll learn,” Cook said confidently, which David found sort of strange. Mr. Jackson was an adult, he wasn’t going to call either one of them anything other than David, for sure.

“All right,” David said anyway. “You want half of my brownie?”

Cook grinned from ear to ear.

~*~


By fourth grade, Cook had somehow become a cool kid, despite being friends with David. David was shy and awkward, never knew what to do with his hands, and had a hard time talking in front of class. He did class-act weird things that only dorks do, but Cool David Cook was still friends with him. It was beyond logic, but David never questioned it. He didn’t want to risk his one (cool) friend.

“Hey, Archie, don’t forget! We gotta let everyone know about our birthdays before Christmas break or no one’s gonna come.”

David was used to not having many (if any) classmates at his birthday parties because not only was it during Christmas break, but it was three days after Christmas. No one wanted to go to parties three days after Christmas. No one.

“Yeah,” David replied reluctantly. He kicked a pebble in front of him, gripping his backpack straps tightly as they walked home from school. “It’s okay if they don’t.”

Cook stopped in his tracks. “Excuse me?” he said, sounding personally offended.

“Cook, my birthday’s three days after Christmas. You know no one ever comes to my parties except you.”

Cook watched him for a long moment, then started walking again.

“I have a plan.”

Cook didn’t bother to reveal this plan until they got to his house, where Mrs. Cook greeted them with an after school snack.

“Hey, Mom?” Cook asked, taking a giant handful of pretzels to David’s five individual pieces. “Can Archie and I share our birthday party this year?”

Mrs. Cook raised her brow then smiled. “What a great idea, David! Why haven’t we ever thought of that before?”

“I’m almost ten, Mom. Ideas are easy for me now.”

~*~


Snow fell softly across the city, having started in the early hours of Christmas Day and continued into the dawn. By the time the children awoke from their lazy vacation slumber, white powder had accumulated several inches in both yards and streets, transporting them to the winter wonderland always promised to them in holiday carols.

The Archuleta household was in complete chaos.

Mrs. Archuleta struggled to keep her children at the breakfast table, as each took his or her turn pressing fingers and faces against the dining room window in awe of this natural wonder.

“Mom, can we go outside?” Jazzy pleaded.

“I wanna go right now!” Daniel declared.

“Eeeeeeeee!” little Amber squealed from where she’d taken root at the foot of her brother and sister.

“No one is going outside until they eat their breakfast!” Mrs. Archuleta announced to the room. “Looks like David and Claudia are the only ones who are going at this rate.”

The young teen Archuletas glanced at one another, surprised, then chuckled. Their younger siblings scrambled back to their chairs, suddenly very interested in cold eggs and toast.

“David’s gonna take me,” Jazzy said confidently, breaking her bacon into a million pieces. “Right, David?”

“I dunno,” David replied, finishing his orange juice and getting up to clear his dishes. “I was thinking of doing some homework today before all the family got here. You get a lot of homework over Christmas break in eighth grade, you know.”

David was kidding of course, but that didn’t keep his little sister from going absolutely pale.

“Homework! But it’s Christmas!”

David shook his head, laughing. “Finish your bacon and we’ll see,” he replied.

While his siblings worked on their meal, David wandered into the front room, where the family piano sat in front of the large, picturesque window gazing out into the street. The room was far enough away from the kitchen that it was actually quiet there. David sat down on the edge of the piano bench, facing towards the window.

Snow still came down in gigantic, fluffy flakes, and the familiar street quickly transformed into an idyllic Christmas card scene. Across the street, the Cook family had already started receiving cousins and grandparents the night before, so all the cars that represented those guests had been completely covered in snow overnight, forming a veritable mountain range in front of the Cook house.

David had been gazing for quite a while when suddenly the swath of white was broken by a little dot of color emerging from the house across the street. He of course recognized Cook’s electric blue ski jacket and Kansas City Chiefs knit cap. Cook hobbled through the yard before squeezing himself between the barrier of cars, catching David’s stare about halfway across the street.

Cook grinned broadly and waved for David to come outside.

David moved so quickly from his spot that he nearly knocked the piano bench over. He fumbled at the door to get his jacket on and very nearly forgot his scarf.

“What are you doing?” David asked, jogging across the pristine snow in the driveway, meeting his best friend in the middle of the street.

“I brought you your present,” Cook announced happily, shoving a gloved hand into his coat pocket. “‘Cause I probably won’t have a chance later today, so I came now.”

“Uh, my birthday isn’t for three days,” David reminded him. “And we’re having a party this weekend.”

“No, your Christmas present, dork,” Cook corrected, handing over a small package that was very obviously a CD.

David stared blankly at his friend. They had never given each other Christmas presents before on account of their birthdays being so close to the holiday. They’d made a pact to purposefully celebrate the birthdays as individual days since so many other people lumped them together with Christmas.

“Um, what?” David replied.

“Okay, I know what you’re thinking,” Cook said. “But like, I couldn’t give this to you for your birthday for a couple of reasons. Open it.”

David didn’t know what to do except comply. He struggled with the wrapping paper as his fingers were absolutely freezing by now, having forgotten his gloves on the way out the door. Peeling back the paper, he gasped a little. A Christmas CD by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra that he had really been wanting stared back up at him. He didn’t even remember mentioning it to Cook.

“Oh my gosh,” David finally said, glancing up at Cook who was grinning like an idiot. “Thank you. I didn’t get you--”

“Stop,” Cook said, putting his hand up. “Don’t even say it. Like I said, I couldn’t give it to you for your birthday because by then Christmas is over and also, our rule.”

The rule Cook spoke of was “no Christmas themed presents for birthdays.”

“Well, still,” David said quietly as he turned the disc over in his hands. “I probably would’ve just bought it later. You should spend your money on your family, not me.”

Cook’s smile softened, his expression changing to something resembling confusion. Tiny snowflakes had gathered on his eyelashes, making him look like some kind of snowy owl or something.

“But Archie,” Cook replied seriously. “You are my family.”

~*~


The dual birthday parties lasted well into high school, and were always mostly overseen by Cook. At no point had David ever had a good plan for a party, and though Cook always encouraged him to throw out ideas, he never pressed the issue. Cook obviously knew David wasn’t creative in that way, and David appreciated that he never bothered him about it.

Besides, a David Cook party attracted a totally different crowd, one that included the ever-elusive girl population. Girls that weren’t from church, more importantly. Girls like Carly Smithson and Brooke White, who were best friends and also a strange match, much like the Davids. Everyone in school wanted to date Carly Smithson, because she was so cool and edgy. And everyone liked Brooke White because she was so nice. David could appreciate that. Nice was good.

The year they turned sixteen, Carly and Brooke came to their party, even though it was during Christmas break and even though it was three days after Christmas. (Cook insisted he’d planned the party on David’s birthday instead of his own because “A comes before C, remember?”, but really it was because the twenty-eighth conveniently landed on a Saturday.)

“Uh oh, Archie, watch out,” Cook muttered not-so-nonchalantly into David’s ear as he brushed against his friend, trying to hide his face with his can of soda. “Here comes Brooke.”

David didn’t have time to figure out what the heck that was supposed to mean before Brooke was right in front of him, smiling as only a shining blonde can do.

“Happy birthday, David,” she said sweetly, handing him a card.

“Oh!” David replied, awkwardly taking the envelope from her. “Um, thanks.”

Brooke’s eyes flashed between David and the card. She giggled.

“Are you going to open it?”

“Oh, right!” David sputtered, almost dropping his own drink. Somewhere behind him he could hear his best friend’s distinctive chortle.

He tore open the envelope, carefully tugging the card out. The front proved to be pretty girly, but just the sort of thing one would expect from Brooke White, with swirly things intertwining with flowers and stuff. He opened it, to find the simple handwritten message:

Happy birthday to my dear friend, and many more!

Dear friend? To be honest, David hardly knew her, but at this point in his life he knew he had to take friends where he could get them. Brooke White wasn’t exactly the worst person he could be friends with.

“Ohhh,” David suddenly heard hummed into his ear. Cook had returned to hover over his shoulder. “Look how cute, she signed it with a heart.”

Indeed, she had. Just there after the ‘e’ in her name, a little heart sat there in bright pink ink. When David looked up at her, she blushed.

“Um, thanks,” he said again. He knew it was lame, but David literally couldn’t think of anything else to say. Cook’s vibrant energy seemed to wither a little next to him. Unfortunately, Brooke’s smile faded as well.

“Hey, Archie, can I talk to you a minute?” Cook had switched to his Serious Voice. “Sorry, Brooke, um… I’ll be quick, promise.”

Brooke nodded in understanding, her bottom lip caught firmly between her teeth. Her blonde tresses whipped around in a golden wave as she quickly made her way back to a confused looking Carly on the other side of the room.

“Archie,” Cook said, tugging David by the shoulder over to the side of the snack table. “What was that? She really likes you, dude.”

David shrugged. It wasn’t anything, he thought, but then that must have been the problem.

“I… don’t really know her?” David tried. For some reason he couldn’t look his best friend in the eye.

“Dude,” Cook repeated, now putting his hands on both of David’s shoulders. “She’s really pretty. You could totally get to know her, if you know what I mean.”

David felt a shiver of embarrassment; he did know what Cook was getting at, of course.

“Well, yeah, she’s pretty,” David agreed. “I like her and everything…”

“So what’s the problem, buddy?” Cook asked. “You’ve never had a girlfriend, I’m trying to help you out here.”

“I dunno,” David muttered, suddenly feeling extremely uncomfortable. “I just don’t like-like her, I guess.”

This seemed to be the most confusing thing Cook had heard in his entire life.

~*~


It wasn’t until college that David came out, mostly because he didn’t really believe it himself until then. Of course, the first person he told was Cook -- nonchalantly while playing Call of Duty one Sunday afternoon.

“Oh man, can I call Brooke?” Cook asked immediately. By now David could recognize Cook’s teasing, but sometimes his jokes were severe enough that if he weren’t joking it’d be a big problem.

“What?!” David squawked at him, dropping the game controller which resulted in his character falling down. “Why?”

Cook laughed as he sunk further into the couch. “Only because she thinks you’ve had a stomachache for like six years now is all.”

“What?!”

Cook laughed again. “I’m joking. It’s just that after you ran out of the basement that night, I told her you weren’t feeling well. Heads up, Arch, zombie Nazi on your tail.”

David just stared at his best friend as the sounds of the aforementioned zombie devouring his video game character’s body filled the room.

“This isn’t exactly how I imagined this going,” David admitted, folding his arms in front of him. “Could you just stop with the zombies for a second?”

Cook sighed and put down his controller. “Arch, you know I’m listening. Sorry, okay? Thank you for telling me. But I already knew.”

David nearly choked. “Wh-what? How?”

Cook merely grinned and reached out to tug his best friend into a tight hug.

“Some things you just know,” Cook muttered into his ear. “Welcome to the team.”

~*~


Rain pattered softly down the windows as David flipped through an absolutely tremendous stack of sheet music at his piano. It’d been a quiet day, his morning class having been cancelled, leaving him time to catch up on some other things he needed to get done. Like choose three pieces to perform for his mid-term evaluation coming up in a few short days.

He’d managed to narrow it down to a scant fifty selections, but it was going to be really hard to choose the three that showed off his skills the best, not to mention he had the worst time ranking songs over one another. He loved music too much to place any of it on a grading scale of any type.

Not that he thought about music the same way other people thought about human beings or anything.

He was staring at two different versions of the same song when Cook came tumbling into the apartment, arms overloaded with bulging brown paper bags.

“I got some groceries after class,” Cook said, hobbling towards their tiny excuse for a kitchen. “Did you know they make pizza flavored Pringles? That’s just revolutionized my entire college experience right there. Two meals in one.”

David peered over the top of his piano, brow narrowed.

“How many did you buy?” he asked in a tone eerily reminiscent of his mother. “Because I’m not paying half the bill if you bought a case like last time.”

Cook looked sheepish for a second before reassuring his friend.

“I just got two, don’t worry. Oops, I mean four.” Cook caught his “mistake” as he pulled the third and fourth tube of Pringles out of the same bag.

David sighed. Usually he’d argue that if Cook was going to buy potato chips he could at least buy cheap potato chips, but it wasn’t the battle he felt like fighting just then. He had a musical resumé to prepare.

“What are you doing with all that sheet music?” Cook asked as he put milk, cheese, and other things into the refrigerator.

“Preparing for my evaluation,” David answered brusquely, now spreading music all over the top of the piano. Cook shoved the rest of the food that needed refrigeration onto the appropriate shelves, then wandered over and leaned on the piano.

“You haven’t chosen yet? Isn’t it in like two days?”

“You don’t have to remind me!” David replied, a little more snappily than he’d intended.

“Archie, just pick some. You’re brilliant, your professor knows that.” Cook fingered the corner of one of the pieces nearest him. “You could play anything… like whatever the equivalent of singing the phonebook is.”

“It needs to be technically challenging for my ability,” David informed him, thumbing through another part of the stack. “Like, I can’t be playing the alphabet song or whatever.”

“Didn’t you decide on ‘A Thousand Miles’ yesterday?” Cook reminded him. “I thought that was an amazing idea. It must meet the technical challenge part, and you had that down in tenth grade. I’m always in awe of your fingers.” Cook mocked playing the piano, which was really more like horizontal jazz hands.

“Nick thinks it needs more work,” David replied absently. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Cook bristling.

“And when in the hell have you been playing it for him?” Cook asked indignantly. “Do you purposefully only invite him over when I’m not here?”

David scowled at his roommate, annoyed by such a question.

“You know very well that Nick also plays the piano,” David explained in an even tone. “I’m not the only person on this planet who owns one.”

Cook huffed, crossing his arms in front of him.

“When do I get to meet the elusive Nick Jonas anyway? Why are you hiding him from me? Is he hideous or something?”

“As a matter of fact,” David answered, slapping down a stack of papers, “he’s coming over any minute now to help me choose my songs. So you can look forward to an entire evening of assessments if you so desire.”

“Archie…” Cook replied, clearly saddened that they’d kind of worked themselves into some kind of argument. “I just… I’m your best friend, aren’t I? I gotta make sure you’re dating a decent person. It’s like, my job or something.”

David tried to be annoyed by Cook’s answer, but he couldn’t find it in himself to do it. The truth was he relied on Cook for a lot, especially in the socialization department. He’d been both eager and scared to have his best friend meet his boyfriend because, well, Cook had basically said it. He liked that Cook looked out for him, and he longed for his oldest friend’s approval. On the other hand, if Cook found anything to criticize Nick for it would break David’s heart. Nick was the first person David thought might actually turn into a longer term relationship, and David Cook had all the power in the world to destroy that with one squinting eye.

He didn’t know that, of course, but it didn’t make it any less true.

A soft knock on the apartment door made both Davids snap to attention.

“I’ll get it!” Cook chimed merrily, but there was no way David was going to let that happen. He practically knocked over his piano bench in his desperation to get to the door first.

“Hey!” David greeted, kicking at Cook to back off. Thankfully choosing to behave himself, Cook retreated back to leaning casually on the piano.

“Hey,” Nick replied, slipping into the apartment. As a greeting he gave David a half-hug that included brushing his cheek with his own. It was a smart move, David thought, if he’d in fact planned it at all. Cook would totally be all over him if he’d been too handsy.

“Um, Nick,” David started, tugging him by his elbow into the apartment. “This is my roommate and best friend, David Cook.”

Nick flashed his unique, smirky smile -- the kind you know is special because its owner is usually so solemn -- and put out his hand to Cook. It took Cook a second to react because sometime after about a half a second of Nick walking into the apartment he’d frozen in place with his mouth hanging wide open.

So maybe David had forgotten to mention that Nick was smoking hot, no big deal.

“H-hi,” he finally said, taking Nick’s outstretched hand. “Nice to… finally meet you.”

“Likewise,” Nick replied, still smiling. Even David had to admit that he hadn’t yet gotten used to that killer smile. It’d make anyone go to their knees. “Hey, can I use your bathroom real quick? I had way too much water an hour ago.”

“Yeah,” David replied. “Just go through the living room there, and around the corner.”

After Nick had disappeared from sight, David turned to find Cook glaring at him.

You,” Cook breathed at him.

“What? What’d I do?” David asked innocently.

“You didn’t… you didn’t say… I mean, he’s kinda short, but still… and like… you did not say...”

David couldn’t help smirking. It was an amazing thing to witness a speechless David Cook.

“Go ahead,” David encouraged. “Use your words.”

“You asshole,” Cook said. “How could you not tell me about… about that? Are those arms real? Because I don’t think a human can actually have arms like that. And… oh my God, Archie.”

“Would you calm down?” David asked, though he couldn’t help the elated feeling in his chest. “He’s just a person.”

“Just a person with an ass that doesn’t quit,” Cook breathed, glancing in the direction where Nick had gone. “A-plus work, Archuleta. A-plus work.” He paused a second in reverie, then suddenly gasped. He closed in on David, gripping his shirt collar.

“David James Archuleta,” he hissed at his friend. “Have you hit that?”

“Cook!” David yelped too loudly, then covered his mouth. “Don’t… How… You know I haven’t… done that yet.”

“You’ve seen that naked though, right? Please tell me you’ve seen that naked.”

“Would you stop saying ‘that’ like he’s an object?” David replied in irritation, prying Cook’s fingers off his shirt collar. “No. But I’ve seen some photos.”

“Some photos!” Cook exclaimed, his hand landing on his chest. “The world I live in contains photos of that man naked. Let’s pray for an iCloud leak.” He crossed himself.

“What the heck is wrong with you right now?” David hissed, perfectly aware that Nick would be returning any second now. “They were artistic photos that his brother who’s studying photography took. He had his shirt off in like one of them.”

“Oh God, he’s a model, I’m crying.” Cook had his hand over his eyes now.

“He’s a musician,” David corrected. “Please pull yourself together, you’re freaking me out. If you keep on like this, I won’t bother mentioning that you play the guitar to him.”

“Does he like guitars?” Cook asked hopefully, peering through his fingers.

“He plays the guitar too. And the drums.”

“Is there anything he can’t do?” Cook swooned.

“Okay, I can’t tell if you’re being serious or trying to punk me right now or something -- but please stop. Please.”

The desperation in David’s voice must’ve finally gotten through because Cook quickly sobered, though he still looked a little exasperated.

“Okay, I’m sorry, Arch.” His doe eyes pleaded in conjunction with his words. “Really. But we seriously have to talk later, you hear me? I can’t believe you’ve never talked to me about him before. Oh my God, you want me to leave you guys alone? You know…”

Cook made crazy eyes that didn’t really translate to anything in David’s vocabulary.

“No, I wanted you two to meet,” David insisted. “That was the whole point of him coming over. Well, and helping me with my music.”

“Well, if it starts getting late and it looks like he might be here overnight…” Cook trailed a moment before continuing. “You know, gimme a signal or something. I’ll go stay over at Carly’s or something.”

“I doubt that will be necessary,” David said through tight lips. But the tight lips were only because Cook had thoroughly stressed him out in the last couple of minutes. In truth, David wouldn’t have minded a little more action from the Nick Jonas camp. The two of them had only ever really kissed and groped a little, so moving on to something a little more intimate wasn’t completely beyond his thoughts.

“This is the guy!” Cook managed to spit out just as Nick was coming back through the living room. Thankfully, Nick didn’t seem to have heard it. David eyed Cook warningly.

“Okay,” Nick said, heading straight for the piano. “Let’s see what we’ve got. Holy cow, this is a lot of music!”

Cook had now positioned himself so that only David could see him over Nick’s shoulder, clearly because even if he couldn’t say anything out loud he was still going to try to mouth inappropriate things at David. It started immediately as David caught Cook frantically mouthing “Archie” at him.

David could’ve simply sat down next to Nick at the piano and ignored his crazy friend’s insane antics, but instead he allowed himself to glance in Cook’s direction.

Cook straightened his back, opened his eyes wide, and brought up his left hand, his first and second fingers extended in a V shape before thumbing frantically in Nick’s direction.

It wasn’t an international symbol for anything, not the way Cook meant it anyway. And actually it’d only been some running joke from high school that no one could even remember the origin of. But David instantly knew what it meant, which sent an anxious chill down his spine.

Virginity. That V had somehow followed them through all their awkward adolescence to this moment when David Cook was actually using it in a serious manner for the first time in all of history.

This is the guy, Cook had hissed at him moments ago. David knew how to translate Cook’s messages very well by now.

If you’re gonna lose your virginity to someone, at least let it be to a talented, lava-hot would-be model who is currently writing musical notations all over your song collection.

David swallowed hard and had to sit down.

~*~


“I can’t believe you spent that much on a pair of sunglasses,” David said for about the fourth time since he and Nick had arrived at the restaurant where they were about to have lunch. “I can barely pay for my groceries on a regular basis.”

Nick smirked from across the table, sipping his soda. “Well, I got birthday money from my parents, remember?”

David did remember, and apparently that’s how Nick bought the well-fitting leather jacket he was also currently wearing. But it wasn’t like Nick just splurged one time on these $180 Wayfarers in mint green while out shopping that afternoon. David had been to Nick’s apartment -- he had like fifteen pairs of those things.

“Right,” David said, poking at the sandwich that had been brought to him. It seemed that Nick’s family had a little bit more money than his, not that that really mattered, of course. Except that while Nick was shopping for things like Ray-Ban sunglasses and yet another pair of distressed Diesel jeans, David had to keep making excuses for not purchasing anything for himself.

Nick seemed to pick up on David’s sudden sullenness. “Did you have a good time this afternoon?” he asked, leaning his elbows on the table while gesturing with a French fry.

“Oh yeah,” David replied. And it was true, in the sense that he got to spend time with his boyfriend, that is. Not so much in the random shopping for designer clothes sense though. “I don’t get to go shopping too often. Usually Cook and I are just hanging around playing video games and stuff.”

Nick’s jaw kind of twitched as he leaned back in his chair, clearly maneuvering thoughts that would never see the light of day.

“How long have you known each other?” Nick asked, somewhat cryptically. He stirred the straw in his soda but never took a sip of it.

“Forever,” David answered, brightening. He loved talking about his and Cook’s lifelong friendship. “His family moved in across the street from us in first grade.”

“That is a long time,” Nick commented without emotion. He jabbed a French fry into some ranch dressing and shoved it into his mouth.

David wasn’t sure why Nick had suddenly gotten so quiet, though it wasn’t the first time he’d seen it happen. Nick was so great in so many ways, but at the same time he had a few peculiar habits that threw David off every once in a while. Sudden mood changes was one of them.

Hoping to save the conversation, David tried to think of something funny to say.

“Did I tell you about what happened the other day?” he piped up, instantly grinning. “It’s so funny. So, a little background, Cook is completely useless until he’s had his coffee in the morning, right? So he comes out into the living room one day and he’s like, zombie Cook basically, and --”

“David,” Nick interrupted sharply, throwing down another fry in his hand. “Is there a story in your life that doesn’t involve David Cook?”

Nick’s harsh tone took David by such surprise that he couldn’t do anything but stare at him for a long moment.

“Er, well, I’ve known him a long time,” David finally managed to say, all the spirit gone from his voice. “He’s my best friend. We do everything together.”

Nick’s lips pursed together as he pushed his plate away. “Yeah, I know. I’m almost surprised he didn’t manage to weasel his way into coming shopping with us today.”

David didn’t understand what the heck Nick was getting so upset about. “He wouldn’t do that, he hates shopping.”

Nick let out a huge sigh and rolled his eyes. “Implying he would otherwise. Can’t he just leave you alone for a day?”

“What are you talking about?” David asked, his voice shaking a little. He’d have liked to believe it was because he was getting angry and defensive, but the truth was that Nick’s sourness intimidated him. He didn’t like when people got upset with him, especially when he didn’t understand why.

“David, every time I come over to your place, you guys are always all over each other, scrunched together on the couch and stuff,” Nick explained with squinted eyes. “Last time I was there he hugged you like six times right in front of me! God only knows what it’s like when I’m not around.”

“Nick,” David asked timidly. “Don’t you like Cook?”

Nick didn’t answer, but made a grumbling sound instead. Reaching for his wallet, he threw down a stack of cash to pay for their lunch, more than was actually needed.

“You ready to go?” he asked, pushing his new Wayfarers up high on his face.

David still had at least half his meal left and Nick’s plate had hardly been touched. But it didn’t matter, David didn’t feel very hungry anymore.

“Yeah, I guess,” he answered quietly, already slipping his jacket off the back of his chair.

The drive home was a silent one.

~*~


“Okay, Archie, can you help me with this? This is impossible.”

David looked up from his homework to find his roommate clutching his guitar while staring angrily at a piece of music.

“I don’t play the guitar,” David replied matter-of-factly.

“But you’re a musical genius!” Cook insisted. “Just look at it?”

David sighed and got up from the small table they had managed to wedge into the corner of the living room. He picked up the music Cook was struggling over and gave it a once over.

“Hmm,” David said, flipping through it quickly. “Well, yeah, this is a bit difficult.” He hummed the music as he absently made his way to the piano.

Setting the music up on the music stand, David dove into the piece, immediately forgetting about Cook at all. The song was indeed challenging, and he faltered a bit in a few places, but finally made it to the end. He sat back, contemplating the music for a long moment.

“See?” Cook said from behind him. “You’re a genius.”

“What is this?” David asked, flipping the music back to page one. “You’re not doing this for class, are you?”

“Weeell,” Cook replied, making his way to David’s side. He sat down on one end of the bench, forcing David to scoot over. “I’m kind of trying to woo this guy I met in my composition class.”

“Oh for goodness sake,” David breathed, clapping down the fall board that protected the piano keys. “Seriously?”

“Don’t you judge me, Archuleta!” Cook defended. “Judge not lest ye be judged!”

“Well! That’s the most of the Bible I’ve ever heard you recite!” David replied sarcastically. “How come I never knew you were so holy?”

“It’s kind of the only part I know?” Cook answered, scrunching up his face. “And that bit about the golden rule? That’s in there, right? Anyway, don’t judge me.”

David couldn’t help but laugh. “Right. Well, you have two choices. Stay up for the next ninety-six hours straight practicing this, or pick a song that actually meets your ability.”

Cook opened his mouth to protest, but was interrupted by a knock on the door. David got up to answer it, finding a delivery guy holding an enormous bouquet of flowers there.

“Yeah, I got a delivery for David Armeleto?” the guy said distractedly.

“Archuleta?” David asked curiously.

“Yeah, that’s it!” the delivery guy answered. “You wanna sign here?”

David almost couldn’t close the door behind him as he struggled to bring the gigantic bouquet of mixed flowers into the apartment. There was no place wide enough to set them down except for the top of the piano.

“What is that?” Cook asked, eyes as big as saucers. He got up and leaned in close so he could read the enclosed card over David’s shoulder.

David,
Happy three month anniversary! Meet me at Chaucer’s at 7:00 tonight. Wear something sexy.
Love,
Nick


David’s cheeks filled with heat as Cook made a low whistle.

“Dude, Chaucer’s? Are you kidding me? Do you own a tie nice enough for that place?”

All David could do was make incoherent babbling sounds.

“Also, weren’t you guys just fighting about something? Someone wants to make up bad, obviously.” He elbowed David and winked.

“It wasn’t a fight,” David managed to say, still staring at the note. “A misunderstanding.”

David had never mentioned the subject of that misunderstanding to Cook, however. Maybe Nick had come to his senses and realized his best friend wasn’t a threat at all.

“I can’t believe you’ve dated so long,” Cook commented, now poking at a tiger lily. “That’s not fair. Between you and me that’s statistically improbable.”

“Quality over quantity,” David replied smartly, finally allowing a smile to come to his face. “Oh gosh, I have to get a haircut right now. And yeah, a new tie. What time is it?”

“Two forty-five.”

“Ahhh! There’s no time!”

Cook stared at David as if he’d just grown a second head. “What are you, a girl?”

“Well, I gotta shower, press my suit, get a haircut…”

“You want me to go find a new tie for you?” Cook offered, smirking.

“Will you?” David replied seriously. “Go to Brooks Brothers.”

Brooks Brothers?” Cook choked, leaning one hand against the piano for stability. “Since when do you have money for an eighty dollar tie?”

David knew Cook had a point, but didn’t care at the moment. Nick would be dressed absolutely immaculately; David had to at least try to do his best to match it.

“I’ve got emergency money,” he explained. “I’ll use that.”

“Is this an emergency?” Cook questioned, his voice pitching.

“Are you gonna go or not?” David asked sharply.

“I’m going!” Cook replied, already moving. “Just let me put some slacks and a dress shirt on first so I can be taken seriously when I walk into that store.”

“Hurry!” David yelled after him.

“The things I do for you, David Archuleta!” Cook bellowed as he disappeared into his room.

Keep going to PART TWO